Thermotropic liquid crystalline glycolipids
Are the liquid crystalline properties of the materials of living systems important in biological structures, functions, diseases and treatments? There is a growing consciousness that the observed lyotropic, and often thermotropic liquid crystallinity, of many biological materials that possess key biological functionality might be more than curious coincidence. Rather, as the survival of living systems depends on the flexibility and reformability of structures, it seems more likely that it is the combination of softness and structure of the liquid-crystalline state that determines the functionality of biological materials. The richest sources of liquid crystals derived from living systems are found in cell membranes, of these glycolipids are a particularly important class of components. In this critical review, we will examine the relationship between chemical structure and the self-assembling and self-organising properties of glycolipids that ultimately lead to mesophase formation.